BWW Review: BONNIE AND CLYDE Shoot Their Way Out of Buck Creek Players
The Depression Era brings to mind vivid images of poverty, bread lines, and tent cities. However, one couple decided that they would turn this time of nothing into a time of plenty. Enter the dastardly villains of BONNIE AND CLYDE. They terrorized and fascinated the country as they fought for something more out of life than what they were born into.
One may wonder how to turn this tale of villainy into a musical, but the high emotions and big egos from this larger than life story lend themselves to creating interesting musical moments and even some rollicking humor. BONNIE AND CLYDE is currently enjoying a stint at the home of the Buck Creek Players. Its modest exterior of corrugated metal belies what awaits inside: some genuine creativity and musical gusto.
There is one simple way to express my feelings about this show: unexpected characters. I, of course, recognized that the story was going to center around the couple of Bonnie and Clyde, who were such powerhouse personalities within the show, but I failed to anticipate the side characters that have historically been neglected.
What caught me most by surprise was seeing a rival couple on the stage who brought a different level of poignancy to the show. They are Buck Barrow, Clyde's brother, and his wife Blanche, portrayed by Levi Hoffman and Miranda Nehrig. I had never realized that Buck was an early coconspirator of Clyde as he gained notoriety for petty crimes. Yet Blanche is really quite fascinating as his partner. She pulls and tugs at Buck to forsake his brother and find comfort in church. This push and pull between them creates both tension and frequent humor. A scene that induced some full-bellied laughs was when Blanche informs her husband in no uncertain terms "You're Goin' Back to Jail," as she prances around her beauty shop and her clients join in the fun. They also bring into focus the stark reality of a life of crime as Blanche unwillingly follows her husband and finds herself cradling his bleeding body, still clinging to God as the source who will save them both.
That leads quite easily into another tour de force in the character of the preacher (André Grocox), who also creates a contrast of humor and somber reality. He is there to echo Blanche in the fight to bring Buck to God, and his booming voice and vibrant presence lit up the church as a sign of hope for the dissolute Buck. However, just as Blanche found herself on the dark side of crime, the preacher's words of comfort about "God's arms" add another depth of feeling when they are repeated as Blanche loses her husband in more ways than one.
Finally, it is easy enough to understand how Bonnie and Clyde fell into their life of love and crime, but I was unaware that Bonnie was mourned by a sweetheart, Ted Hinton, played by Jonathan D. Krouse. He is desperately fighting to find Bonnie and Clyde for his own reasons. He remembers Bonnie as she once was, a sweet and innocent young girl. He desperately clings to the hope that, inside this seemingly lost woman, there is still the Bonnie who played the angel in the school play. His pure heart and good intentions vie with the raucous and bawdy behavior of Bonnie and Clyde as they forge their path of destruction.
As you take your seat to see this show, don't forget that Bonnie and Clyde may have made headlines, but it is the people they brought into their turbulent relationship who most suffered the consequences.
Coming from a more technical background myself, rather than on the acting side, in BONNIE AND CLYDE less easily made into more. The set is mostly comprised of corrugated metal that provides the audience with easy insight into the troubles of the Great Depression. The simple set offers the actors the ability to have some great moments that wouldn't be available with something more complicated.
One aspect of the set greatly helped "set the stage" between scene. Embedded in the metal above the stage was a screen that changed pictures as the show progressed. For example, during the Great Depression scenes, the pictures on the screen were that of bread lines and the poor. This simple touch, which I've never seen done before, set the stage, the timeline, and the scenes perfectly by helping the audience to understand the time period and locations.
I also do have to commend the set designers on one more note... The addition of the car to the stage was an excellent choice!
Always a fan and critic of historical accuracy, I'd have to say that I was impressed throughout BONNIE AND CLYDE. Not often does costuming catch my eye, but being very familiar with the history of the time, I knew I would be extra critical. The costume was well-thought-out and organized-not thrown together or neglected like some other shows. The detail in the costumes actually took the viewers on a journey from the early 1920's to the mid-1930's. The costuming also greatly helped with understanding the current plight or success of the various characters.
BONNIE AND CLYDE will continue to run at Buck Creek Players until June 25th.
Photo credit: photoGary.net